The Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary is a large marine protected area off Colombia's Pacific coast. This World Heritage Site includes the barren Malpelo Island, its rocky outcroppings, and the surrounding marine environment, recognized as one of the top diving sites in the world.
Malpelo Island and its rocky outcroppings represent the highest elevation of the enormous underwater Malpelo Ridge in the Pacific Ocean. Despite its small size, the island is believed to play an essential role as an aggregation point for the reproduction of numerous marine species.
It is the only island visible above the ocean surface from the Malpelo Ridge, a solitary volcanic submarine ridge. The ridge extends in a northeast-southwest direction with a length of 300 km (186 mi) and a width of 100 km (62 mi). Some offshore rocks surround the island.
Malpelo Island was presumably isolated from human contact before European discovery. Therefore, it is uninhabitable and located in the same area as other oceanic eastern Pacific islands, such as Cocos Island, the Galápagos Islands, and the Revillagigedo Islands, all uninhabited at the time of European discovery.
At first glance, the island seems barren rock, devoid of all vegetation. However, deposits of bird droppings have helped colonies of algae, lichens, and mosses, along with some shrubs and ferns, to be established.
Malpelo Island and its satellite rocks boast a limited but highly specialized biodiversity characterized by a high degree of endemism. These include five plant species, three reptiles, and two arthropods.
The rocky outcroppings also support large colonies of Nazca Boobies, as well as Swallow-tailed Gull, Masked Booby, and the critically endangered Galapagos Petrel.
Due to the remoteness and protection efforts, the conservation status of the location is outstanding, making Malpelo one of the world's top diving destinations.
Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary
The Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary is a large marine protected area located approximately 500 km (300 mi) off Colombia's Pacific coast. This UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the barren Malpelo Island and the surrounding marine environment.
The vast majority of the property, 857,465 ha (2,118,840 acres), is a "marine wilderness" constituting the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. The rugged underwater topography includes steep walls, caves, and tunnels, reaching a depth of around 3,400 m (11,150 ft).
Jointly with the local confluence of several oceanic currents, this complex terrain is the basis for highly diverse marine ecosystems and habitats.
Widely recognized as one of the top diving sites in the world due to the presence of steep walls and caves of outstanding natural beauty, these deep waters support significant populations of large predators and aquatic species.
The sanctuary hosts special populations of marine species, including large top predators and aquatic species, such as Giant Grouper, Billfish, and numerous shark species.
Aggregations of over 200 hammerhead sharks and over 1,000 silky sharks, whale sharks, and tuna have been recorded in an undisturbed environment where they maintain natural behavioral patterns.
It is one of the few places in the world where sightings of the short-nosed, ragged-toothed shark, a deep-water shark, have been confirmed.
Other biodiversity highlights include 17 marine mammal species, seven marine reptile species, 394 fish species, and 340 species of mollusks. Known marine endemics include five fish species and two sea star species.
Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary belongs to the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, a marine conservation network that includes World Heritage properties in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama.